Develop employees by helping them search within themselves

Very often, managers and HR professionals find it tough to have career conversations with employees. They find it awkward when confronted by issues relating to career decisions. Instead of providing an answer that the employees want to hear, isn’t it better for managers and HR professionals to help employees find the answer by getting them to search from within?

There are many ways to do it and depending on the relationship forged, the conversation can go deeper and gather greater insights through authentic and genuine engagement.

Mapping of high and low moments

To kick start the career conversation, the employee can begin by mapping the high and low moments of his/her career. During which, get him/her to share and highlight the reasons behind the high moments and low moments. It may start off with limited details which is perfectly normal. This will then leave room for further clarification and discussion at the next stage.

A simple illustration of a possible mapping as follows

Clarify and discover


After receiving the initial mapping, start by clarifying the factors that contributed to the high and low moments. Keep questions simple, open-ended and avoid leading questions. Close-ended leading questions can be like, “Is it because a reputable company provides better prospect for individuals?” Instead, ask simple open-ended questions such as “What does a reputable company mean to you?”

The employee will think about the significance behind it and you can then extract useful information from the conversation. Some possible reasons that might be cited for wanting to work in a reputable company could range from having good prospect to working with top talents. From there, the employee will receive greater clarity on what are the important things that he/she values at work.


Taking it one step further, it’s also important to understand what interests the individual. Referring to the illustration above, one area to probe further will be the part on data-focused role which resulted in the employee’s low moment. Since he/she doesn’t enjoy a job that is data-focused, you might want to clarify the reason behind that. Similarly, use simple and open-ended questions to find out more about the employee’s area of interest.

Once that’s ascertained, the employee will now have a greater understanding on things that he/she should avoid when moving into the next role and likewise, it also helps the manager get a good sense of what assignments will best fit the individual. Of course, interest has to be matched with the individual’s competency and therefore, the next step is to help the employee identify his/her areas of strength.


To help the employee discover his/her areas of strength, one possible way is through the discussion of the key achievements. Take the employee through what he/she has accomplished and ask questions to reflect what contributed to the success across the mentioned assignments.

Besides self-reflection, it’s also good for managers to provide their inputs at this juncture. Unlike the values and interests which are the more reflective aspects of an individual, the discovery of strength would only be complete if it is complemented from external inputs. Other than the managers, the inputs from the individual’s peers are valuable information as well.

Taking this forward

Career conversations can be made easier with the right focus and tools on hand. By helping the employee understand his/her values, interests and strengths, it will not only provide them with greater clarity on what they really want, it will also help managers understand how to develop them to the fullest. In addition, it will ensure both parties are on the same page and can jointly work on the career path of the individual rather than second-guessing for most parts of it.

Regular check-ins with employees are also important to understand any challenges they are facing which could impede their performance and growth at work. After all, a manager’s job is to enable his/her staff by providing the necessary resources to help them do their work better. Helping them understand themselves by looking within is definitely one good way to do so.

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